|Expeditions in Bengal|
|Part of Imperial Maratha Conquests|
|Maratha Empire||Nawab of Bengal|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Raghuji Bhosle||Alivardi Khan|
The Expeditions in Bengal was taken by the Maratha Empire after the successful campaign in Carnatic at the Battle of Trichinopolly. The leader of the expedition was Maratha Maharaja Raghuji of Nagpur. Raghoji was able to annex Orissa and parts of Bengal permanently as he successfully exploited the chaotic conditions prevailing in the region after the death of their Governor Murshid Quli Khan in 1727.
Death of the Governor of Bengal
In 1727, Murshid Quli Khan, the Governor of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa died. His successor Sarfaraz Khan was killed by an ambitious Turk in his service in 1740, and the post of Nawab thus went to the usurper known as Aliwardi Khan. This most unworthy act of Alivardi was detested by one Mir Habib, a loyal servant of the late Nawab. Mir Habib, who had risen to the position of deputy of Nawab by the dint of his merit, resolved to overthrow his new treacherous master and for the accomplishment of his object sought Raghuji's aid. This was an excellent opportunity for Raghuji, who was eager to expand into Subhas of Cuttack, Patna and Murshidabad.
Expedition of Bengal
From 1741 to 1748, Raghuji carried in all six expeditions to these regions; popularly known as Bengal expeditions. The first one in 1741, as also the third in 1744, were led by Raghuji's general Bhaskar Ram Kolhatkar. The second in 1742 and the fourth in 1745 were led by Raghuji himself. The fifth in 1747 and the sixth in 1748 were undertaken by Janoji and Sabaji respectively. Alivardi Khan made peace with Raghuji in 1751 ceding in perpetuity Katak up to the river Suvarnarekha, and agreeing to pay Rs. 12 lacs of tribute annually in lieu of the Chauth of Bengal and Bihar.
The net result of these campaigns is seen in the treaty concluded between Alivardi, the Nawab of Bengal, and Raghuji in 1751. The terms of which are as follows:
- Mir Habib was to be confirmed in the Government of Orissa as the deputy Subhedar of Murshidabad.
- The Nawab of Bengal was to pay annually Rs. 12 lacs to the Bhonsles in lieu of the Chauth of Bengal and Bihar.
- So long as this amount (Rs. 12 lacs) was regularly paid, the Bhonsles were not to harass the provinces of Bengal and Bihar.
- The district of Katak i.e., the territory up to the river Suvarna-Rekha was to be considered as the possession of the Bhonsles.
The smaller states of Raipur, Ratanpur, Bilaspur and Sambalpur belonging to Chhattisgad territory were conquered by Bhaskar Ram, and were placed in charge of Mohan Singh, the illegitimate son of Raghuji. Towards the end of his career, Raghuji was the master of the whole of Berar; the Gond kingdoms of Devgad including Nagpur, Gadha-Mandla and Chandrapur; the Subha of Katak; and the smaller states spreading between Nagpur and Katak. Very few Maratha noblemen had such a vast territory under them.
Looking at the geo-political condition at that time, the Subha of Katak in the hands of the Bhonsles was of strategic importance as it stretched between the English possessions of Bengal to the north and Madras to the south. The successors of Raghuji, however, could not utilise this situation to their advantage as they wasted their time and energy in fratricidal wars with the Peshwa. When Mudhoji Bhosle was ruling in Nagpur, Nana Phadnavis proposed a Quadruple Alliance to oust the English from India. In this alliance the Bhosles were to attack the English possessions in Bengal as they had not paid the dues of Chauth from Bengal and Bihar for a long time. However, this plan could not be executed as Mudhoji gave it a lukewarm support.
Since the victory of the Nizam at Sakarkherda, Berar was subject to the dual administration of the Nizam and the Bhonsles. In the contemporary language it was doamli region. Both the Nizam and the Bhonsles had their officers, but the stronger Bhonsles made actual collections of Chauth (25 per cent), Sardeshmukhi (10 per cent), and Ghaasdana charge for feeding the cavalry (5 per cent). Thus, out of the total collection 40 per cent was of the Bhonsles and the remaining 60 per cent was to be paid to the Nizam as the Subhedar of Deccan. In course of time, as the Bhonsles became stronger, they reversed the percentage, taking 60 per cent for themselves and leaving 40 per cent for the Nizam. This arrangement regarding the division of the revenue of Berar between the Nizam and the Bhonsles took place during the sena-saheb-subhaship of Janoji. The arrangement which existed at the time of Raghuji I cannot be ascertained, though by the sanad of Berar granted to him by Chhatrapati Shahu it seems that he collected 25 per cent as Chauth and 10 per cent as Sardeshmukhi.
At the time of Raghuji III Bhonsle (1818–1853), the Nagpur kingdom was divided into five Subhas: (1) Devgad above the Ghats; (2) Devgad below the Ghats, which included Nagpur and the surrounding region i.e. the region between the rivers Wardha and Wainganga; (3) region between Nagpur and Chhattisgarh; (4) Chandrapur together with the forest area and (5) Orissa. The strategic forts of Gavilgad, Naranala and Manikdurg (near Mahur) together with the territory attached to them for their maintenance were held by Raghuji.
- SNHM. Vol. II, pp. 209, 224.
- OUM. pp. 16, 17
- KNPI, p. 495.
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